Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

It's one year later, which means it's time for Harry Potter to go back to Hogwart's, and for the franchise juggernaut based on J.K. Rowling's best-selling series to return to theaters. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets picks up right where the first film left off, which much of the principle cast and production crew in place ensuring a consistent feel to the film. The makers figured, "hey, why mess up a successful formula," so much of the good and bad things about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone carry over. The main criticisms are a nearly fanatical adherence to source material, which inconsistently translates the wonder of the books to the big screen. Chamber of Secrets is at times a little funnier and a little scarier, and is able to start quickly because there is no need to establish all the characters.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, The Tailor of Panama) is preparing to go back to Hogwart's when Dobby the House Elf (voiced by Toby Jones, In Love and War, Hotel Splendide) warns him to stay away from school, or something horrible will happen to Harry. Once there, he begins to realize that things are not working out for him. Someone or something doesn't want him there, and is doing a lot to try to hurt him. Things take a turn for the worse when students find other students petrified. A message in blood scrawled on the wall proclaims that the "Chamber of Secrets has been opened." The Chamber allegedly contains a monster, which can only mean a new adventure for Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), and Hermione (Emma Watson, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). Some of the story threads deal with racism (wizards with Muggle parents), which brings a larger sense of gravity to the plot.

Then there's new professor Gilderoy Lockheart (Kenneth Branagh, The Road to El Dorado, Love's Labour's Lost), a heartthrob amongst women with an ego that is probably larger than his biggest fan's. Branagh is wonderful as an arrogant, smug, and highly shallow new character, constantly boasting about his spell prowess. Another new character is Moaning Myrtle (Shirley Henderson, 24 Hour Party People, Bridget Jones's Diary), a ghost who haunts the girls bathroom. The downside is that some of the other characters have significantly less screen time this time around. Like the first movie, the special effects are first rate, and probably surpass the effects from the first movie.

Part of the reason the tone and much of everything else feels the same is that director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Bicentennial Man) and adapter Steven Kloves (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Wonder Boys) are both back. They are obviously familiar with the work, and big fans, so they are loath to do anything to incense other fans. While this allows for a truthful adaptation, Columbus has never been one to truly take material and stretch it and make it his own. The young actors seem much more comfortable with their roles, and as a result Columbus is able to coax better performances out of them. This is a safe adaptation. Highly enjoyable, and formulaic, it is a movie designed to please audiences. This is usually enough, but for a movie with a profile like this one, one usually expects some more.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 41 minutes, Rated PG for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language.

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